The Veterans Village of San Diego cold-weather shelter, located at 2801 1/2 Sports Arena Boulevard, is designed to be a refuge for veterans who are on the street and need a bed for a while until they get on their feet. It's closing at the end of March. That's a good thing and a bad thing.
The odor is the first thing you notice upon entering the tent. It back-slaps your sense of smell. There are 75 bunk beds for 150 vets, both male and female.
“Welcome to the Nut Hut” was the greeting from the veteran bunking to my right as I lay down on the bottom bunk, or “rack.” I would learn that this was no exaggeration.
Rules: (1) You are allowed belongings that will fit under one half of the bottom rack. (2) If you are inside the gate after 6 p.m. you can't leave the compound until the next day. (3) Be by your bunk by 8 p.m. for “bed check” or you will be “rolled up,” meaning your belongings will be bagged, tagged, and you’ll be back on the street for at least the next 48 hours.
In one instance, security rolled up top-bunk guy; however, they managed to also take the belongings of his bottom “bunkie” who was asleep at the time.
When there are roll-ups, raffle tickets are issued to those standing outside the gate for the number of beds available any given evening around 8 p.m. So, if there are three beds available and five people waiting for a bed. Two people are going to be SOL.
Showers are timed at 15 minutes, with security monitoring the time. There are elderly and handicapped persons who need fifteen minutes just to get undressed, let alone take a shower, get dressed, and shave in a space that holds three shower stalls and one sink.
The tent is not perfect, but I'm glad it was there when I needed it.
When I arrived in San Diego in September of 2013 to relocate and be close to my first granddaughter, I had $100 on my debit card and faith in God that the research I did on veterans’ programs would help me get situated. The tent provided that help. I'm now in a studio apartment and working for a staffing agency as an office assistant.